No-Cook Bags – Connecting People Without Shelter to Life Changing Resources

Executive Director Janna Nichols of the 5 Cities Homeless Coalition is one of the visionaries of the No-Cook Bags that we are able to offer to agencies who serve those without shelter.

Janna works every day with clients who are disadvantaged and sees how No-Cook Bags have become one of the most innovative and effective ways to engage clients at her agency. “No-Cook Bags,” she said, “have become a vehicle for us to have life changing conversations.”

The entrance to 5 Cities Homeless Coalition in Grover Beach.

Janna reached out to us in 2017, to describe the need and scope of an issue that had become critical. Our standard distributions provided food that had to be stored, kept cold, and prepped on a stove. Although made with the best intentions, these distributions excluded clients who did not have shelter or who otherwise lacked access to a kitchen. Our staff studied in-house resources that could be directed to this effort and secured funding for a pilot program.

Their effectiveness and utility were soon apparent and the No-Cook Bag program has quickly expanded to serve all of San Luis Obispo County.

Staff member Sally Vidalin and volunteer Jerri Young are handling No-Cook Bags.

Volunteers prepare bags at our warehouse that include purchased food and grocery rescue items such as canned protein with pull top lids. Peanut butter and other proteins are frequently included, along with additional snacks and hydration. A No-Cook Bag provides on average, four meals and two snacks, enough food for about a day and a half.

The surprise along the way has been how No-Cook Bags have become a link to get people in the door to engage them to consider additional resources.

Sample items from a No-Cook Bag.

Janna Nichols said, “We use No-Cook Bags to facilitate person to person meetings wherever we do outreach in the community. We started using them about the time we moved in to our new offices in Grover Beach. A lot of our clients are drawn to us because of the availability of food that they can really use. And we’re able to leverage that interest to engage them in a conversation about the many other resources we can provide. ”

“Once they’re in the door with us they can see we have computers, phones, hygiene kits and an array of other programs that can really be of help. We see over 3,500 people at our office every month. No-Cook Bags are an innovative way to build bridges with those who are without shelter.”

Staff member Devon McQuade hands a No-Cook Bag to a client.

Last year, we delivered 8,000 No-Cook Bags to 37 agencies throughout the county. The demand for this innovative way to serve those without shelter continues to grow. Each bag costs right around $4 to prepare and while grant funding covers a portion of these costs we hope to be able to meet this increasing demand and need your help to do so.

Please consider making a recurring monthly gift or a one-time donation to the Food Bank Coalition in support this community’s continuing effort to connect people without shelter to life changing resources.

– By Kevin Drabinski, Chief Executive Officer